DeWayne's World - Wanted: Empathy for drivers

DeWayne Bartels

Last week, I suggested retailers deserve empathy during the shopping season.

I stand by that reasoning, but they are not alone as deserving members of society. The shopper — especially the driving shopper — deserves it as much, maybe more.

This occurred to me recently as I drove home from an interview with some ladies at the Five Senses Salon and Spa across the road from the Shoppes at Grand Prairie.

While there, I watched women getting pampered. They were getting hand massages and neck massages. Women were getting pedicures.

They were all so relaxed I even began to feel relaxed by osmosis.

That didn’t last five minutes upon exiting the salon. 

As I left the mall on North Grand Prairie Drive, planning to head east on War Memorial toward home, it was after 6 p.m.

The trip there had not been bad at all, considering it was 4:45 p.m. when I arrived.

I figured rush hour must be over. I didn't expect the shoppers.

I got to the four-way stop at an exit to the mall. I could see only two cars up at the light.

“Not bad,” I thought.

Then I got to the four-way stop not far from the salon.

The drivers I encountered at the stop sign leaving the mall were apparently more familiar on how four-way stops work now than I am. Judging from their actions, drivers leaving the mall now have the right-of-way at four-way stops. Drivers were not stopping, just slowly rolling on out to make their left-hand turn.

I stayed calm, tapping my fingers on the dashboard like I do when I get behind an idiot making a left-hand turn onto Knoxville, a block away from a stoplight.   

“It’s not Thanksgiving yet. How bad can it be?” I asked myself as I finally got to the light.

“Stay calm,” I said to myself.

I’m such an idiot.

The traffic movement was reminiscent of what I saw on Park Avenue in Manhattan around the Waldorf-Astoria when I stayed there in 2001.   

I got to the stoplight and waited for what seemed an eternity for the light to change.

As I sat there, it occurred to me some sharp retailer was missing a great opportunity to make a quick buck. Someone should be out there on the median selling hair-coloring products to people as they sit there watching their hair go gray. Or a doctor could sell anti-anxiety meds to drivers.

At that light, a doctor would have more than enough time to examine you, diagnose you and prescribe meds. I know I could have used some as I sat there. 

I mean, no one goes anywhere quickly out near the Shoppes. You get through one red light only to be confronted by another.

The line of red brake lights stretched forever.

I’m going to date myself here, but I thought to myself, it’s a good thing I am not affected by red lights like Kate Reid’s character Dr. Ruth Leavitt in the 1971 movie “The Andromeda Strain.”

The amount of traffic was incredible.

The number of times I hit the brakes was annoying.

The non-stop commercials on the oldies station were maddening.

It was like I was in the First Circle of Hell. 

After I got past the 114th stoplight headed toward Allen Road, I thought, “We’ve got to get moving now.” 

Again, what an idiot I am. All I was doing was heading into the Second Circle of Hell. 

On that stretch of road that is marked 50 mph we were traveling at a whopping 25 mph.

By the time I got to the turnoff for Barnes & Noble, I had a white beard and a red face.

When I reached Sheridan Road, I was looking for a brake shop. I was sure I must need a brake job, even though I had one just a few months ago. Four miles on War Memorial in that kind of traffic must be equal to 40,000 miles of wear and tear. 

I was in a hurry because I had left my wife at her North Peoria office, off Sheridan, telling her I’d be back ASAP. She got off work at 5 p.m. It was rapidly approaching 7 p.m.

Now, after being married to a newspaper man for more than 28 years, annoyance is her constant companion. It sits on her shoulder like a parrot on a pirate.

I was worried. She might be a lot smaller than me, but even an idiot like me knows not to stick his head in a lion’s mouth. 

But, she wasn’t there. She got a lift home from our daughter. She knew better than to wait on me.

She figured I’d see some car accident or fire and be attracted to it like a moth to a flame and leave her sitting there. Smart woman.

I’m capable of some smarts, too, once in a while.

When I go shopping, I have my line of attack all mapped out.

I’m driving downtown, parking the car, and letting City Link do the driving.

Weirdos on the bus I can deal with. It's the weirdos behind the wheel I worry about the most.